Mitch McConnell Praises Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as 'Son and Daughter of the Senate'

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for their service in the upper chamber of Congress during a gift ceremony following their Wednesday inauguration.

Congressional leaders presented Biden and Harris with specially designed Lenox glass vases featuring the White House and U.S. Capitol, respectively, as well as the flags that were flown over the two federal buildings earlier in the day. McConnell gave brief remarks to present the flags, highlighting Biden's and Harris' background as senators.

"I have to make one point of personal privilege on behalf of the Senate, with all due respect to our distinguished speaker [of the House, Nancy Pelosi] and our colleagues from the House. I have to note, not only did we just swear in a son and daughter of the Senate to these high offices, but indeed both these former senators skipped the House altogether," said McConnell, drawing laughter from the small crowd.

Mitch McConnell
Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, arrive at the inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20. Drew Angerer/Getty

McConnell emphasized that Harris is the "very first female vice president of the United States" and referred to her as "our very distinguished former colleague."

The Kentucky Republican will become the Senate minority leader later on Wednesday, as three new Democratic senators will be sworn in, giving Democrats narrow control of the legislative chamber.

Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972, taking office in January 1973. The Delaware Democrat went on to serve in the upper chamber until 2009, when he became vice president under President Barack Obama. Biden served alongside many of the current members of the Senate during his decades in the legislative body.

Harris was elected to the Senate from California in 2016, taking office in January 2017. She did not complete her full term, as she resigned her seat this week to take on her new role as vice president. Harris will also serve as the president of the Senate. With an evenly split Senate—50 Republicans and 50 Democrats—Harris will break any tied Senate votes, giving her party narrow control of the chamber.

During his presidential campaign, Biden often touted his experience in the Senate and the personal relationships he's had over the years with Republican lawmakers. The new president has expressed a desire to pass significant bipartisan legislation—and hopes to end the political deadlock that has become the norm in Washington. In his inaugural address on Wednesday, he called for unity and vowed to be president for "all Americans."

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
President Joe Biden, Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, at the Capitol following the presidential inauguration on January 20. Getty

McConnell and Biden reportedly have had a positive working relationship in the past. In his 2016 memoir, McConnell wrote fondly of Biden.

"Not only did I like Joe, but I also learned that he didn't only talk; he also listened. He was, therefore, someone I could work with," the majority leader wrote.

But McConnell has proudly described himself as the "grim reaper" of the Senate in the past, bragging about blocking hundreds of legislative proposals put forward by House Democrats. During the Obama administration, McConnell constantly blocked and obstructed the former president's priorities. Whether things will be different with Biden in the White House is to be determined.

This story was updated at 3:01 p.m. ET with additional information and background.